Photo : Reuters/Rferl
10 April 2023, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #483
War in Ukraine, Day 409 & 410
By Padmashree Anandhan
War on the Ground
On 08 April, Ukraine’s Naval Forces reported on Russia’s deployment of seven warships carrying Kalibr missiles in the Black Sea. According to the report the warship’s location were traced in Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and in the Mediterranean Sea.
On 08 April, Ukrinform reported on the presence of 70-kilometre defence line containing Russia’s forces in Zaporizhzhia. According to the report the captured area of Zaporizhzhia under Russia remains in guard in the west as spotted in the Sentinel-2 satellite. This extends to the center of Mariupol, which Russia sees as capital of the region.
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 08 April, RT reported on Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev comments on Ukraine. Medvedev stated that Ukraine would soon vanish since the west nor its people care for it to exist. He said: “Why would Ukraine disappear? Because nobody needs it.” He substantiated this saying the EU would not need to continue the conflict as it leads to financial and political turmoil. Medvedev warned: “The prospect of decisively planting Ukrainian blood-sucking parasites on the neck of the shriveling EU.” According to him this would lead to the “demise” of the EU.
On 09 April, one of the Russia’s military center Head, remarked on the Russia’s plans to bring tank-killer groups to counter the “modern armour” given by the West to Ukraine. According to the Head, there have been “instructional guidelines” have been drafted by Russian military to carry out training. In the statement of the military expert: “This is large-scale, systemic work which is being carried out at state level.”
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 07 April, the US National Guard reported on the upcoming NATO schedule to hold a largest aviation exercise called “Air Defender 2023,” from 12 to 23 June. According to the report, the aviation drill will take place in NATO’s eastern front and to quickly deploy its aviation. The exercise led by Germany will also look into “operational and tactical field training.” In the statement of NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) will host the largest cyber defence exercise including more than 3,000 individuals.
On 08 April, in the intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defence reported that Russia attempts to bring down Ukraine’s energy grid during 2022 was not successful. According to the statement: “Russia has conducted long range strikes since October 2022, but large-scale strikes have become rare since early March 2023.” It observed Ukraine’s power system was able to replace the needed components including transformers despite logistical issues. The Ministry also suggests that energy system of Ukraine will get better with warmer weather.
“There are 7 enemy ships in the Black Sea on combat standby, of which 1 carrier of winged missiles "Caliber,” facebook.com/navy.mil.gov.ua, 08 April 2023
“Satellite imagery shows 70km ‘trench’ of Russians in Zaporizhzhia region,” Ukrinform, 08 April 2023
“Ukraine will 'disappear' – Medvedev,” RT, 08 April 2023
“Moscow set to deploy ‘tank hunters’ to battlefield – official,” RT, 09 April 2023
“Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 8 April 2023.,” UKMOD/Twitter, 08 April 2023
Sgt. Sarah McClanahan, “ANG Top Leader Hosts Air Defender ’23 Media Visit,” nationalguard.mil, 07 April 2023
By Rishika Yadav
Aleksandr Chervyakov calls for technological independence with Russia
On 07 April, Belarus’s Economy Minister, Aleksandr Chervyakov highlighted the need for technological independence between Belarus and Russia. He also added other potential areas for cooperation in manufacturing, electronics and building machines. Till now eight programs have been completed include working on nuclear energy and improving product traceability. They have signed 26 different agreements on taxes and customs, with 10 more agreements upcoming in 2023. Russia had bought 60 per cent of all goods traded by Belarus in 2022, while Belarus sold nine per cent of all goods imported by Russia, which is more than usual. The minister wants to increase the amount of goods Belarus sells to Russia by 6.5 per cent this year, which would be worth 1.5 billion USD. (“Technological independence seen as crucial to Belarus-Russia union security concept,” beltanews. 07 April 2023)
Sanna Marin to step down from Social Democrats Party
On 05 April, Finland’s Social Democrats party, Head Sanna Marin, decided not to run for re-election in September. She says the last four years have been difficult, with things like the pandemic and Russia invading Ukraine. However, she will still help the party form a coalition, which starts on April 14th. It led to inquiries as to whether she has disappointed the over 35,000 individuals who voted for her in the recent parliamentary elections. Sanna Marin's announcement of not seeking re-election as the leader of the Social Democrats has generated discussions and conjecture regarding her potential successor. Several stakeholders have made their own interpretations. Finn’s Party group leader, Ville Tavio, made an interpretation that she made a lot of debt for Finland and now she's leaving. He also thinks that her leaving makes it more likely that the National Coalition and Social Democrats will work together to form a government. (“Marin didn’t let down her voters, Tuppurainen states to YLE,” Helsinki times, 07 April 2023)
EU to compensate for discontinued pipeline deliveries from Russia
On 08 April, according to a report by Reuters, the European Union’s figure for supercooled gas is expected to exceed 50 per cent by 2023 as it has not procured sufficient long-term contracts for liquefied natural gas (LNG) to compensate for the discontinued pipeline deliveries from Russia. To reduce its reliance on Russian energy, the bloc managed to enhance its imports of LNG to 121 million tons in the previous year, marking a 60 per cent growth compared to the year 2021. In 2022, the EU spent approximately 190 billion USD on supercooled gas when LNG prices crossed three times than usual, according to the International Energy Agency. The EU should use long-term sale and purchase agreements (SPAs) to cover 70 to 75 per cent of its LNG supply, as per the suggestions made by Morten Frisch, senior partner at Morten Frisch Consulting. (“EU exposed to high energy costs next winter,” Reuters, 08 April 2023)
Ireland to amend its Good Friday Agreement
On 09 April, the BBC News reported that the Republic of Ireland cast a ballot with over 90 per cent in favor of amending its constitution as a component of the Good Friday Agreement. twenty five years ago, this agreement saw the Irish government renouncing its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland, replacing Articles Two and Three with the principle of consent. However, political attention to Northern Ireland waned as new leaders with economic challenges took over in both the Republic of Ireland and the UK. The unexpected Brexit vote in 2016 had significant implications for the Good Friday Agreement, as the EU's single-market borders had become largely invisible by that time. In 2021, the Northern Ireland Protocol was introduced to avoid physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but unionists claim that it effectively created a trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, leading to the collapse of the power-sharing government at Stormont. The insiders in the Republic are disappointed with the lack of progress on north-south borders, and some believe that Northern Ireland will not exist in its current form in 25 years. (Shane Harrison, “Good Friday Agreement: The view from the Republic 25 years on,” BBC News, 09 April 2023)
Genesis Market shut down by International Police
On 07 April, Europol announced that the world's most dangerous marketplace, which facilitated the sale of stolen account credentials to hackers worldwide, has been taken down by the international police. The operation was carried out by 17 countries, and involved the shutdown of the Genesis Market and the seizure of its infrastructure. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Dutch National Police (Politie) led the international sweep, and a command post was established at Europol's headquarters to coordinate the various enforcement measures undertaken across the globe. Its ease of accessibility and low prices made it a popular resource among hackers, greatly lowering the barrier of entry for buyers. This action by international law enforcement agencies will have a significant impact on the criminal underworld and will help to prevent further cyberattacks that cause financial and personal harm to individuals and organizations. (“Police shut down 'one of the most dangerous' cyber market dealing in stolen identities: Europol,” Helsinki News, 07 April 2023)
Russia facing the worst hit to its economy
On 08 April, the BBC News reported that the Russian rouble has hit a one-year low against the US dollar, falling to 82 roubles on the Moscow Stock Exchange on Friday morning. This is the lowest value the currency has reached since the country invaded Ukraine. While the country reported a 2.1 per cent contraction in its economy in 2023, this figure was far lower than the 15 per cent drop previously anticipated. The latest fall in the rouble's value is attributed to a range of factors, including lower oil prices in March and the sale of Western businesses in Russia following the invasion. Despite stabilizing at 50 roubles in July, the currency has since weakened once again. Despite a sharp fall in energy imports to Europe in 2022, China, India, and other regions have taken over the supply by filling up the gap in the market, created by Western companies withdrawing from Russia, despite the sharp fall in energy imports in 2022 in Europe. This has helped to mitigate the economic impact of the invasion on Russia. It has announced plans to adapt its economy in response to the sanctions, with a view to completing the process by 2024. (Natasha Preskey, “Russian rouble falls to lowest value for a year,” BBC News, 08 April 2023)
Investigation launched on classified documents leak by the US
On 06 April, according to a New York Times report, several classified documents belonging to the US and NATO regarding Ukraine's preparation for a potential spring offensive against Russia surfaced on online platforms like Twitter, Telegram, and Discord. The US Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the matter, considering the potential impact of the documents on combat operations. The documents include sensitive information such as arms deliveries, battalion strengths, training plans of twelve Ukrainian combat brigades, ammunition consumption, maps showing the front's course and the location and strengths of Russian and Ukrainian troops, as well as information on other countries like China and Israel. It is claimed that the documents originated from various intelligence agencies and the military high command, and they were distributed through pro-Russian channels. The documents contain details from February and March and could help to understand how Ukraine intends to defend itself against Russian attacks. However, experts have warned that some of the documents might have been deliberately falsified as part of a Russian disinformation campaign. (“Justice Department investigates leak of classified documents,” Frankfurter Allgemeine, 09 April 2023)
Tunisia’s two migrant boats missing since Friday
On 08 April, a second boat off Tunisia’s beach sank with four bodies recovered, and thirty-six individuals were rescued, but three remain missing. The first boat, which had 37 people on board, departed Tunisia for Italy on Friday. Seventeen people were rescued, while 20 remain missing. Since March, there have been at least seven similar shipwrecks off Tunisia, resulting in around 100 deaths or disappearances.The proximity of parts of the Tunisian coastline to Lampedusa, an Italian island frequently used as a crossing point to the mainland, has led to an increase in the number of people using Tunisia as a departure point to flee conflict. In the first quarter of 2023, over 14,000 migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, have been intercepted attempting to reach Europe from Tunisia. Tunisia's Sfax court spokesperson, Mr Masmoudi, commented while announcing the investigations for both incidents: "the aim is to find the organizers of these attempted crossings who made them embark on iron sheet boats, which do not offer minimum safety conditions at all but which are cheaper to manufacture than wooden ones". (“Tunisia migrant boat shipwrecks leave 27 dead or missing,“ BBC News, 09 April 2023)
Turkey-Iraq tensions escalate over alleged attack on sulaymaniyah airport
On 09 April, according to a report by Reuters, the Iraqi government demanded an apology from Turkey following an alleged attack on Sulaymaniyah airport in northern Iraq. The Iraqi presidency has called on Turkey to end hostilities on Iraqi soil and cease "intimidating civilians" under the guise of the presence of hostile forces in the region. Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) foreign media affairs Head, Lawk Ghafuri, said: “A drone attack near Sulaymaniyah airport occurred on Friday, but it did not cause any harm, delays, or suspensions of flights.” In response, Turkey’s defence ministry spokesperson denied its Armed Forces operation. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed that its chief, Mazloum Abdi, was present at the airport at the time of the alleged attack but remained unharmed. Turkey has previously conducted military operations against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Islamic State, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and northern Syria, including air strikes. The alleged attack occurred after Turkey closed its airspace to aircraft traveling to and from Sulaymaniyah due to increased activity by PKK militants. (Ismail Amina, “Iraq calls on Turkey to apologize for attack on Sulaymaniyah airport,” Reuters, 09 April 2023)